A Travellerspoint blog

Happy Birthday to Me

The Shetlands to London

Happy Birthday to me .. I managed to get up just before lunch, get myself together and popped down to one of the cafe's that has Wifi.
As much as I love it here in the Shetlands, I had signed up for a number of events for the Couchsurfing get together in London on the weekend, so I thought I better arrange getting back.

On the Thursday night Lee invited a few of her friends along to the Lounge Bar. What a fantastic night we had. As luck should have it the bar itself was pretty dead, but I think we more than made up for noise. There where so many stories and lots and lots of laughter. My stomach was hurting we laughed so much. To everyones surprise they even had cranberry which I duly mixed with the local Shetlands vodka, not a bad drop at all.

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It will be sad leaving here, I have enjoyed it so much. Lee has been such a wonderful friend, the island itself seems to draw me, but I also know I will be back. Next time I shall be a bit more organised and book a tour to see some of the many islands that make up the Shetlands. I will also try and get hold of the few Leisk documents floating around and try to track down a bit of history. A grandparent would be fantastic then I too can be a dual passport holder, but I have this vague notion it will be a great grandparent.

I started the journey back to London on Friday afternoon. What a hell of a trip it is going straight through. Overnight boat to Aberdeen, with a few hours uncomfortable kip on the floor, not to mention a few hours of 'unexpected movement' .. what an understatement, you could feel the boat flying in the air, hanging and then 'bang' as we bottomed out .. on the bright side I wasn't sick, so I think I can very safely now say I don't get seasick, back to the trip .. a walk over to the train station, train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, bus to Edinburgh Airport, plane to Luton, bus to Baker Street and tube to Islington. The boat left Shetlands at 5 on Friday and I got back to Islington 5.30 Saturday, so virtually 24 hours straight travelling.

I showered, changed and jumped back on the tube for the CS BBQ. Its a long weekend in London and its wet, cold and blustery. I was tempted to stay in, but felt a bit better after cleaning up. The BBQ was great, so many people from all over, it truly was a league of all nations, but honestly I just wasnt with it. After a couple of hours, 2 plastic cups of wine and a hamburger I decided to call it a day and headed on home where I crashed.

Sundays event was a picnic at Regent Park, its still wet, cold and blustery, so after a walk around the park, which is absolutely gorgeous by the way, I grabbed a bite to eat, bought a couple of books and headed home to veg out.

So I am very well rested now .. drinking Starbucks ... ewww I know, but they seem to have taken over and its the closest wifi spot.

Tonights CS event is dinner and wine night so I think I shall be more than up for that one ....

Take Care all and speak to you soon

Posted by towander 05:14 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

The Shetlands

No Night, Non Stop Yakking .. I love it here !!!

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OK, where did I leave off last time .. ahhh the blonde moment.

So after my 'extra' night in Aberdeen we woke up bright and not early, I'm getting into this holiday mode very quickly. Stay up yakking half the night and sleep half the day. Its wonderful. This far north at this time of the year it doesn't really get dark and I love it, there is so much extra day. It makes our daylight saving look rather pathetic.

Now .. Chris asked if I would like to go shooting. OMG !! me who is petrified of guns .. but what the heck, this journey is for all things new and the opportunity was presenting itself.
After getting ready we piled into the Range Rover, people, dogs and guns .. and drove out to the place where they shoot.
It was a lovely day and we drove in the opposite direction to yesterday. We wandered around for an hour or two, up hill and down dale. There where a few shots taken but nothing hit. Ryan came over and asked if I would like a go, this was apparently a small rifle more used for beginners or kids to learn.
I was pretty nervous and he setup a target for me. After the instructions , BANG !! , being a small rifle I didn't get too much kick back AND I hit the target .. cool !

Some more walking around and later on I had another go and then Chris said to try his rifle. I have no idea what it is but its a tad more powerful. Lean forward, sight, pull trigger ... whoa .. that was some kickback. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I couldn't imagine I would like to shoot at anything living, but targets are fun. So one new first for the day, time for the next one.

We left the country with plenty of time to get home. I packed up which only took a few minutes and got dropped off at the terminal ready for the boat trip.

Up to now I have only been on boats when I can see the shore. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the open ocean and particularly the North Sea which is not known to be calm, but was about to find out.

I got on the boat early and wandered about to get my bearings and then settled in for a long ride. The trip to the Shetlands leaves at 7pm and gets in at 7.30am. All in all it wasnt too bad. Bloody cold and windy outside, it was so funny walking down the corridors swaying away, you could tell the drunk ones, they were walking straight. I managed to grab a few hours sleep on one of the couches, you can get cabins, but at an extra 90 odd pounds for the trip I decided to forgo the luxury.

By 6am I was tired of swapping ends of the couch to change sides, my handbag pillow was getting hard, it was time to head up to the top deck to watch us come into the Shetlands. What a fantastic view, it was well worth the cold. Spot the Australian, 2 x Tshirts, Light Jacket and Red Wool Jacket, I looked like the Michelen (sp) woman having a bad hair day. We eventually docked and Lee and her flatmate Sara came down to greet me at 7.30 in the morning off the boat.

I am so blessed with the Couchsurfing hosts I've had so far. We got home and sat and yakked till 4ish in the morning. That was one hell of chat session. We got up somewhere around lunch time and had to get ready as Lee had organised for a friend of hers to take us for a drive. Shona and her daughter turned up and off we went.

The countryside was absolutely beautiful. So many hills and crofts and lochs. Its quite an experience on the single lane winding roads, lots of bends and crests with no idea if someone is on the other side. First off we went to this wonderful little gallery which had some designer kilts on display. Very creative and made from things like paper and plastic with handprinted lyrics or graphics. At roughly 1200 pounds a pop I'm not sure how quickly they will sell.

We then headed out the the most westerly part of the Island. Shona and Lee told me so much of the history and explained how things were like. Generations ago Shona's family ended up on the Shetlands because they became shipwrecked and the spot where we visited is where they landed. We stopped for a while and had a bit of a photo session. Lee has a funny one of Shona and I dancing around on the green grass singing .. the hills are alive with the sound of music ... yes silly buggers was the order of the day.

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Time to head home and still lots more stories. What can I say, this is such a wonderful way to get an introduction at a such a close level. It just really doesn't get any better.

We got back and popped around to the Nepali around the corner to get dinner and whoops, Lee and I sat up till 4 again. Over the last couple of days there has been so many stories, so many laughs, so many commonalities, I feel like we have all known each other forever.

Monday was a bit of a recovery day, got the washing done, went for a walk down to Lerwick town centre and really just vegged. Some more yakking .. a bit earlier this time .. um 2ish I think. Lee is really interested in Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, etc .. so I am trying to talk her into going in 6 months. It works perfectly. She has stuff she needs to finish which will take 6 months, my visa runs out in 6 months .. we shall see. I think it will be fantastic.

Tuesday I managed to get my self out of bed and ready by midday .. damn its a hard life. I headed off in the other direction and went for a long walk around to Westloch and had a wander around the Broch there. This was a village for the Picts from the Iron Age. Its built from stone obviously and absolutely amazing. They must have been so small. To get through any of the walkways you have to be totally crouched over.

I then headed on to walk around the coastline. It was blowing like mad so on the way there it was a struggle at times to walk against the wind and once it got behind me it was pushing me along. All up I think I walked for about 4 hours. My timing was perfect, as I headed up the last street home it started to rain and I just made it in. It took me a couple of hours to thaw out and now I'm busy typing this up.

I am just loving it here. Such fantastic company but more than that I really feel peaceful and calm. Its one of those things that you don't realise how long you haven't until you do. As I came into the Shetlands on the boat it just felt like I was home and its getting stronger. Its fairly isolated and I know I couldn't live here permanently, but I have no doubts I will be back.

Wednesday was yet another veg day and sitting around talking till goodness knows when. I just feel so comfortable and peaceful in Lee's house its hard to move. My bodyclock just thinks its always day, its amazing how quickly time goes when you don't have night per se.

On Thursday we are heading to one of the pubs as its the night the local musicians have a bit of a jam night. Lee is inviting a few friends and I can also cry in my vodka over yet another year passing. Where the hell do they go !!!! .. despite that, it feels like a good place to spend my birthday.

This is turning into war and peace, I shall bid farewell to all for now and update soon.

Posted by towander 06:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Ode to Aberdeen

Oh and another blonde moment

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Yesterday (Wednesday) I made the train trip from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.
What absolutely stunning countryside !!
Its just so green, its such a different green from what we see, its so rich and vibrant.

I got into Aberdeen and messaged Chris who is my first couchsurfing host. He has set the bar very high. He picked me up from the station and took me to his place. Its the most gorgeous cottage in an old fishing village on the sea.

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Chris, Ryan, Russell and the two dogs Milo and Max have been so welcoming and generous.

After I settled in and dropped my bags off, it was up to the main street for a bit of a wander and I also bought myself a couple of jumpers.
We headed home for a dinner of Chinese and a bottle or three of wine.
Lots of chatting, watched the English version of The Apprentice and partook of the couch.

Today we went for a run out the to west of Aberdeen. Again absolutely stunning countryside. We stopped in at Glenbruchet Castle, not huge, but very interesting. It always amazes me how the built these castles so long ago and even more so how they lived in them.

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It was a bit of a rush home as I had to get the ferry at 6.30. On the way home we passed the dock and strange, strange .. no ferry was there. I'm starting to panic thinking I had the wrong time but we where home in a couple of minutes. I run in and check my email ... no no I had the right time ... whoops !! Chris points out I had the wrong day .. my booking is for tomorrow .. doh !
Cue blonde moment and embarrassment as I ask to borrow the couch for another night.

Ah well, thats life. I don't know how I got it wrong and I feel like a complete dill, but at least now I will double check dates with days ;)

Posted by towander 11:15 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

The Search for the Kilt

Scotland, my spiritual home

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Wow, its been a full few days since I last wrote.

On Saturday Kev messaged ( I got myself an el cheapo local phone) and asked if I would like to go to a party they had been invited to at a private club. Of course I did !!! ... lol so after a shoe crisis, the words private club made me think posh and I know I live in my Docs but I really thought they might not be appropriate, which resulted in moi buying a nice pair of leather boots, with heels ... I was all set to go.

The tube station near me was shut down for the weekend for maintenance, nothing new there .. just like being home, so I finally worked out the buses and got to Kings Cross to jump on the tube to meet Kev and Edwin. After much walking around we finally found the club, which was really more of a nightclub, so I could have damn well worn the Doc's ... but it was entry only by being on 'the list'. It was a friend of Kev's birthday and we had a wonderful night. I'm not sure what time we left but more walking to find the night bus and by now my feet where absolutely killing me. Lots of whinging later it was boots off and I walked the rest of the way in my stockings ... the first bus took us into the city and from there we had to get another bus out to Kev's and Eddies .. they kindly offered to let me crash as I knew there was no way I was going to find my way home. I do know that by the time we got home it was sometime after 4, so it was Macca's and sleep.

Once we woke up, we drove over to my place so I could shower and change and then it was off to the V&A to see the Kylie exhibition. I think most of you know I'm not much of a Kylie fan, but it was interesting. Exhibition done, toddle down the road and a nice lunch was had in Kensington and then home to pack.

I set my alarm for bright and early Monday morning to head off to Scotland !!
I wasnt sure about the tube and didnt want to be late so got a cab. I was booked on the 8am bus to head out to Luton and managed to make it for the 7am bus :-) ... <insert lots of boring airport stuff here> and Edinburgh here I come.

I got in and grabbed a bus into town. My couchsurfing for Edinburgh fell through, so I dropped into the tourist centre and booked a place. What a gorgeous one it is too. I'm on Royal Terrace which used to be very posh .. but what a lovely city.

The first impressions of Edinburgh are green and old. Everywhere you look there are heritage listed buildings, lots of parks and green, green, green. It is surrounded by hills and the Edinburgh Castle sits above the town looking down. It is truly impressive and majestic. For us Aussies this is like going back in time. I walked down to my hotel with backpack .. which fits really well by the way .. and UP the hill .. one thing I have learnt about the UK, the cities of stairs is that they always put the single rooms on the TOP floors .. 5 flights of stairs later I'm just a tad breathless, but I made it ... at this rate my fitness level is going to rise pretty damn quickly.

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View from my hotel window

After I recovered from the stairs, settled in, I went for a wander. On the way home, just above my hotel is Carlton Hill which has a beautiful view over the city .. and for some unknown reason I decided to walk up it .. OMG !! I had to stop a couple of times on the way, but it was well and truly worth it. The view was magnificent.

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View of Leith and Edinburgh from Carlton Hill

I had a nice slow start to Tues, not the least because everything hurt .. my feet have been dying anyway, but the hill got to my hips and knees .. poor old woman that I am. I did the tourist bus thing which is a good way to get a general look around. Edinburgh turned on a beautiful day, no rain, sunny and perfect for looking around.

As its so cold I've been living in my Doc's, my feet and knees where really starting to feel it, so yes, I did it .. I stopped in at Boots and got some of those slip in Orthotic things .. but phew .. they are great .. what a difference.

After sorting out the feet I got off at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, I can't even begin to describe how truly beautiful they are. Acres and acres of green. Trees, shrubs, flowers from all over the world, its a little slice of heaven. I visited the glasshouses, which are huge with all types of environments. LOL I didnt want to leave the tropical ones, it was nice to feel hot again.

I ventured out down the road for dinner tonight to a Nepalese restaurant, damn I miss that food. I had Dal Bhaat and laughed that it would be strange eating it with a knife and fork .. the guys there said oh oh, but you can eat it properly, so I did. It truly is the only way to eat Dal Bhaat .. mix it all up with the fingers and ho in. I thoroughly enjoyed it washed down with a glass of house red ..

Its up early tomorrow and I'm on the train to Aberdeen. I have a very kind Couchsurfer to stay with, I say this because I only messaged last night and he said no problems and is even going to pick me up from the train if he can. The next day I'm off to the Shetlands .. I can't wait .. Lee (my Lerwick Couchsurfer) has been absolutely wonderful. She is meeting me at the boat at 7.30 in the morning ... I am truly amazed at how generous people are along the way ... Stay tuned and keep the home fires burning

Posted by towander 13:20 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

Thanks be to wonderful people along the way

Of settling in and not much else.

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Well, well, what have I been up to this week ... not a lot really.

The first day I really just crashed. It was either stay awake until local bedtime or sleep through to local wakeup time. Must be old age catching up with me because for a change I did the sleep through.

I have to say, I did wake up on the Wednesday feeling pretty damn good. I put all that energy to work and again wandered around all day. After 2 years of a fairly indulgent lifestyle all this walking is knocking me out. Its early nights so far and boy am I sleeping well. Did I also mention that I forgot that London is the city of stairs .. so many friggin stairs .. yes I know, its good for me !!

Before I left Pete mentioned a book he had just read and thought I would like, I keep forgetting to write the name down but knew it was something about wind in the title and the author had a Spanish name. While I was out wandering I stopped in at a bookshop to pick up a London guide and amongst the thousands of books there something caught my eye as I was walking past .. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Sometimes you just have to wonder about the way things happen, so book in hand I toddled off to Hyde Park, grabbed a bite and got totally immersed. Thanks Pete, it was a cracker and I couldnt put it down. I had to keep going until I finished it .. I never know if thats a good thing or a bad thing .. you are dying to get to the end to see what happens but then it goes so quick.

On Thursday I decided to do the tourist bus thing. I did it last time as well, but it was a good refresher. Its still cold and raining so I couldnt be bothered hopping off to look at anything. I am so so glad that I decided at the last minute to throw in my red wool jacket and the ever trusty Doc's are proving to be even better in this weather.

I phoned few people that I needed to catch up with on Thursday and one of them is a friend of my sisters who came over on Thursday night. We popped up the road to one of the locals for a wine or 3 (Chilean red, not too bad) and a bite to eat. It turns out he is in the building game here and has a flat in Islington that he is not really using yet. Its in an old warehouse that will eventually be units. He has been absolutely wonderful and offered me use of the place till I sort out what I'm doing.

Friday I checked out early and got myself a day ticket on the tube. I had to head down to the Mac place in Regent Street to get a new battery for my baby .. I have walked that far before, but decided I better start getting used to the tube again so did a bit of hopping around between the lines to get there. After that I did a recon mission to Islington to see how hard/easy it was going to be to get my bags here. I decided to get the tube back to Edgeware Rd and black cabbed it back here with my stuff.

I can't believe how fantastic this place is, I am right next to one of the main roads with a huge cafe strip, lots of shops, a Walkabout pub (Aussie themed pubs they have here) ... not that I'm sure I want to go but no doubt my curiosity will get the better of me and the tube station a couple of minutes walk away. I'm also not far from Camden and the big weekend markets. I can see lots of exploring coming up.

Even though its Friday night, I'm buggered .. so I caught up with my washing, went and got Indian takeaway and a bottle Grant Burge and am now firmly ensconsed in bed with my Hello Kitty flannelette jammies .. haha I bet THAT is an image very Bridget Jones ..

On Sunday I will be catching up with Kev and Eddie and I have been told that as an Aussie I have a DUTY to see the Kylie exhibition .. so Kylie here we come and I'm sure there will be other 'sights' along the way :-) I will have to get back on Sun night and get ready to head off to Scotland on Monday morning .. I don't know what it is about Scotland but I just have this feeling it will be really significant to me .. not long till I find out.

Posted by towander 02:12 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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